With over 1.3 million apps in the Google Play Store and over 1.2 million in the iOS App Store, getting your new app to stand out from the crowd is becoming increasingly difficult. Gone are the days when building a great app and releasing it into the store was enough to get a reasonable number of downloads. To stand out in today’s environment, you need to put some real effort into your app’s launch. I’ve pulled together this step by step, pre-launch app marketing guide to make sure you have some basic app marketing in place before you launch. This will form the basis of your marketing campaign. Everything I mention in this guide can be done yourself, and it is all extremely inexpensive. Let’s get straight into it!
1. Get your App Store Optimization (ASO) Right
ASO is the process of improving the visibility and ranking of an app in the relevant app store’s search results. It’s about improving your app’s presence in the app store to make sure users see it and download it. You can think of it as Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for the app world.
App Name and Keywords
Getting your app to the top of the search results for your keywords and getting it ranking in the top charts allows more users to see your app. To do this you need to make sure you select your app name and keywords carefully. There are many resources and tools out there to help you understand the process and select your keywords and title. Two of my favourites that provide an amazing amount of free content are the Sensortower Blog and Apptamin Blog.
But keywords and app name are not where ASO ends. Once a user sees your app, you need to convince them to download it.
When a user searches an app store for particular keywords, they are presented with a list of results. Each result consists of the app icon, name and ratings. Assuming you’ve already chosen a great app name during the keyword research process, we will move on to the icon.
First impressions count, and your app icon may be the biggest contributor to a potential user’s first impression of your app. If your icon looks average, it’s easy to assume that your app is average as well. Make your icon beautiful and make it stand out. If it’s presented in a list of results with 1-5 other apps, you want a user to be drawn to it instead of your competitor’s icons. Also, make sure it communicates what your app is about. A potential user will be searching for something specific. If they look at your icon and don’t immediately get the impression that your app will suit their needs, you can be certain they will skip over it and go for a competitor instead.
Ratings and Reviews
I’ll briefly mention ratings and reviews, but I won’t focus on them too much as you won’t have any for your app at this stage. What I will tell you is that they matter for a couple of reasons.
First, app reviews will influence where you appear in the search results. An app with lots of positive reviews will appear higher in the search results than an app with no reviews or a lot of negative reviews.
Second, potential users look at reviews when they are deciding whether or not to download your app. If they see 2 apps in the search results and one has a 5 star rating and the other has a 1 star rating, chances are they will choose the one with 5 stars.
Now lets move on to screenshots and the app preview video. If you are publishing to the Apple App Store, your app preview video and/or 1-2 screenshots will also be displayed in the list of search results. This means that if you have a preview video, the first frame needs to look appealing. If you don’t have a preview video, your first 1-2 screenshots are arguably the most important.
Tips for creating screenshots:
- Don’t just take a screenshots from your device or the simulator and use them. This is a lazy approach and it’s obvious to users. You need to add something extra to your screenshots to make them visually appealing. Take a look the top apps in your category for ideas.
- Have them tell a story. If your app is a utility, use the screenshots to show users how it works and what it can do for them. If it’s a game, showcase the best features of your game and what makes it fun. If the screens aren’t self explanatory, add some brief text to explain what’s going on.
- Use all of the available slots. Upload as many screenshots for your app as the app store will allow.
- Give extra consideration to what you want users to see in the search results (iOS specific). I mentioned earlier that search results on the Apple App Store also display an app preview video and/or 1-2 screenshots.
Since the release of iOS 8, the App Store will show either 1 landscape oriented app preview video or screenshot, or a portrait oriented app preview video and 1 portrait oriented screenshot, or 2 portrait oriented screenshots if the app does not have a preview video. Here are some examples from a search on an iPhone 5s that demonstrate this:
An app with a landscape oriented preview video. As you can see, the results show just the first frame if the landscape oriented video.
The next example shows an app with no app preview video and a landscape oriented first screenshot. For this one, the results show the first screenshot, which is landscape oriented.
Next, an app with a portrait oriented preview video and a portrait oriented first screenshot. Here you can see how the iOS app store treats portrait oriented videos and screenshots. Video is on the left, screenshot on the right.
And finally, an app with no preview video and at least 2 portrait oriented screenshots. Without a preview video, the App Store displays the first 2 screenshots, which in this case are both portrait oriented. As you can see in the example, this can be used to your advantage if you put some thought into it.
My advice would be to use always use an app preview video. If your video is landscape oriented, then just make sure the first frame in the video looks good because that’s what will appear in the search results. If your video is portrait oriented, create a portrait oriented screenshot that will appear alongside the video in the search results list. The rest of your screenshots can be oriented however you think is best.
If you don’t have an app preview video, my advice is to go with 2 portrait oriented screenshots as your first ones.
2. Create Your Marketing Material
Before your app is even finished, you should be able to get your designers to create some graphics for you to use in promo’s. Have them create a series of different images that you can use to show off your app and get people interested.
You should also create some marketing copy that you can use to generate interest. Make sure you are considering your target audience. You want to be selling them the benefits of your app and start to get them excited about it.
3. Ramp up Your Social Media Presence
Once you’ve got some marketing material for your app it’s time to start using it. You can start by building a social media presence for your app. Ideally you should do this as early as possible.
Start by creating a Facebook page and adding a well-written description of what your app does. Also include some of your marketing images to give users a feel for the app and it’s features. Once the page is set up, share it with your network to attract some followers to the page. Next, start to post content that is relevant to your target audience on a regular basis with the aim of building your audience.
Do the same for Twitter. Set up a profile and work on gaining followers. Share content about your app and content that is relevant to it.
As development progresses, you can also share new images and features with your social networks. This will help to maintain interest and keep your app in the mind of potential users.
Depending on the type of app you are creating, it may also be beneficial to join forums relating to your app and start posting useful content. For example, if you are building a Yoga app, join some yoga forums and become a valued member of the community. When the time is right you can begin to talk about your app, and eventually share a link to your landing page, which we will cover in the next point.
4. Create a landing page
A landing page is a single page web site that is designed with one objective in mind. In this case, you should create a landing page to showcase your upcoming app and generate interest. More specifically, the purpose of this page is to capture the contact details (email addresses) of people who are interested in your app. You can then use these details to communicate with potential users about your app launch. Imagine being able to send an email to several hundred people who have already indicated they are interested in your app on launch day. It’s a sure fire way to boost those initial downloads.
One of the quickest and easiest ways to create a landing page is to use a wordpress plugin. There are a ton of these out there and a quick Google search will leave you with plenty of options.
If you want to save some time, I use WP Profit Builder. I want to be completely completely transparent, so I will tell you that is an affiliate link. However I wouldn’t be recommending it if I didn’t genuinely believe it is a great tool actually use it myself. It’s $67 for an unlimited license and here are a couple of reasons why I like it:
- It’s a one-off fee and you can use it on an unlimited number of sites/domains.
- You can integrate with all of the major mailing list and auto-responder services.
- Lots of templates to choose from.
- Easy drag and drop interface makes it quick and easy for me to create new app landing pages.
- Templates with video. This means you can include an app promo video on the landing page quickly and easily.
- It’s a plugin, which is great if you already have a WordPress site set up with a theme. But it also comes with it’s own theme for those who don’t already have one. That means all you need is a cheap hosting solution and you’re all set.
If you need some inspiration for your landing page, have a look at how these developers have done it:
Weather [snap] – This shows you just how simple a pre-launch landing page can be while still being effective. Also a great example of how you can add an email signup form to your landing page.
Turnplay – Turnplay’s landing page is a great example of how to integrate social sharing into a landing page. As you can see, there are buttons in the top right to follow their Twitter account or like the Facebook page. And down the bottom you can see there are more sharing buttons that if pressed, take you to the relevant social media platform to share a link to the landing page from your own account.
Mosaic – Mosaic have created a more detailed landing page that walks you through all of the app’s key functionality. It incorporates beautiful images, short, easy to read snippets of text, and videos of the app in action. This app is live in the app stores and they have included downloaded links at the top. Take notice, because this is what you should do after you launch. Also notice the social sharing buttons at the bottom of the page.
Once you’ve got your landing page set up, start to share links to it wherever you can. Start by sharing a link via the Facebook page and Twitter account that you prepared earlier. Send it to friends and get them to share it on their own social networks. Find forums that are related to your app and post there. Focus on the problem that your app will solve for people, you want to make sure they understand exactly how it will help them.
Remember, although this is all about building buzz for your app, don’t be spammy with it. Things like posting links to your landing page at the bottom of every blog post you can find, joining a forum and immediately posting links on every board etc. are all methods you should avoid.
While there is much more you can do when it comes to marketing, these are all cheap, easy and effective methods that any developer can use. By following the simple steps in this app marketing guide, you will put yourself ahead of the majority of developers out the there when it comes to your app launch.
When launch day comes you will have an email list full of potential users for your app. All you have to do is send them an email to let them know it’s ready to download. Once they click that download link in the email, you have a great icon, screenshots, preview video and description to do the rest of the work for you. Your ASO will also set you up for more organic downloads as a result of users searching the app stores.
On top of that, you will also have your Facebook page and Twitter account with loyal followers that you can continue to use to market the app post-launch.
Got some other pre-launch marketing tips that I haven’t covered here? Feel free to share them in the comments below!